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As Southern Baptists Meet To Talk Same-Sex Marriage Strategy, Don’t Be Fooled By “Softer” Rhetoric

October 27, 2014
Filed under: Religion & Faith

SBC Remains One of Nation’s Most Virulently Anti-LGBT Denominations

WASHINGTON - As members of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) gather today in Nashville for a conference aimed at devising strategy to combat the movement toward marriage equality for LGBT Americans, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation has called for an end to the denomination’s vilification of same-sex couples.

Though the SBC has characterized the conference, organized by its Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, as an effort to find new ways to discuss the growing acceptance of marriage equality, there should be no confusion that its well-publicized campaign to mask harsh LGBT rhetoric does not represent change in either practice or policy.

Sharon Groves, head of the HRC Foundation’s Religion and Faith Program, who is attending the conference, said: “LGBT people are routinely spiritually, emotionally, and even physically harmed by the rhetoric that originates in church pulpits and seeps into playgrounds, classrooms, workplaces, and even into dinner table conversations.”

“The SBC has not been a friend on our issues, and has among the most aggressively anti-LGBT policies and practices in the nation. But in a country where youth homelessness is on the rise, and nearly 40 percent of young homeless people identify as LGBT -- many from conservative Christian homes -- we need to attend conferences like this to reach out to younger evangelical leaders who are more open to greater acceptance and inclusion.”

The HRC will be joined at the conference by a small but influential group of LGBT-affirming Baptist and evangelical Christian leaders also working to battle the SBC’s historic intolerance.

“We find hope in dramatic changes in attitudes in many religions communities, from renowned Baptist theologian David Gushee affirming gay and lesbian people, to stories of young evangelicals rejecting the homophobia and transphobia of their church leaders,” Groves said. “As we attend this SBC conference, we brace ourselves for what might not be the most inclusive space, but we go with an open heart and belief in a future where we will all live out the commandment to love our neighbors as we do ourselves.”

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation is the educational arm of America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. HRC envisions a world where LGBT people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

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The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) may be dressing up its upcoming conference with "softer" rhetoric, but SBC policies and practices remain the most stridently anti-LGBT among religious organizations in the U.S.

A sampling of typical LGBT animus from ERLC/SBC this year alone:
*ERLC President Russell Moore announces a conference to ostensibly help pastors answer community questions and asserts that “homosexual behavior is still a sin,” and “same-sex marriage Biblically forbidden.” [Tennessean, 6/10/14]
*ERLC signs on to anti-marriage equality amicus briefs in Indiana, Virginia, Oklahoma, and Utah cases; in Indiana, it cites Old and New Testament in seeking to deny marriage equality to same-sex couples, and argues that overturning laws banning marriage equality “would mean the end of representative government as we know it.” [Associated Press, 7/24/14]

*ERLC’s conference features Denny Burk, who asserted in a blog post for the ERLC that he has “concluded” that the Bible teaches both same-sex behavior and same-sex orientation to be “sinful.” [Presbyterian Church, Religion News Service, 8/22/14]

*SBC passes a resolution on transgender identity that opposes hormone therapy, gender reassignment surgery, and asserts that “God’s design was the creation of two distinct and complementary sexes, male and female.” [New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, 6/14/14]

*ERLC says on its website that “Satan was pleased with the narrative that Michael Sam [the first openly gay person drafted by a professional football team] is the new Jackie Robinson,” and asserts that using Sam as a symbol of the dream of equality is “at odds with the core message of the civil rights struggle.” [ERLC.com, 5/29/14]

*ERLC President Russell Moore says “there is not space in Southern Baptist churches for someone who is unrepentantly engaged in homosexual conduct,” no matter what’s happening politically with same sex marriage. Theologically, Southern Baptists are not ‘softening’ their views, he says, adding that many Christians are immersing themselves in what he describes as a sexual “counterculture.”  [Atlantic Online, 5/21/14]

*ERLC pressures World Vision to reverse its decision to hire Christians living in sanctioned same-sex marriages; President Russell Moore says, “There's always a pragmatic streak in evangelicalism that negotiates away orthodoxy for cultural acceptance.” [New York Times, 3/28/14]

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